SEMO News Service
ADVANCE, Mo. -- On Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, exactly one year after 21-year-old SPC James Burnett, Jr. died in Operation Enduring Freedom in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device, his community dedicated a Hero's Way sign in his honor.
Burnett, the son of James and Cheri Burnett, Sr. of Brownwood, Mo., was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska. He was a graduate of Clearwater High School.
Burnett's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service ribbon, Overseas Service ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat and Special Skill badge, Basic Marksmanship Qualification Badge (Bar, Weapon: Rifle), (Inscription: Rifle), (Expert), and the Overseas Service Bar.
Sen. Rob Mayer sponsored legislation naming Highway 25 in Stoddard Country from the city limits of Advance to one mile south of the city limits the "SPC James Burnett, Jr. Memorial Highway." Mayer was on hand for the ceremony in the Advance Elementary School. He spoke briefly, along with several other honored guests and
Others speaking at the ceremony were Rep. Billy Pat Wright; the soldier's grandfather Rogers; Christy Mercer on behalf of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill; Judy Thrower on behalf of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson; and MoDOT Southeast Distsrict Engineer Mark Shelton.
Burnett's stepmother, Cheri Burnett, spoke about the young Burnett and what he meant to his family.
"Our family is loud, boisterous, opinionated and argumentative," Burnett said, "but James somehow always managed to turn an impending fight into something to laugh about, or he would defuse the situation with a hilarious and outrageous story. James probably wouldn't like being called a hero, and he probably wouldn't like all the attention he has received. He joined the army and served his country because it was the right thing to do, because it was a good fight and, most of all, because it was exciting. We cannot feel sorry for his short life when he lived it so fully. We can be proud that he wasn't too weak or too uncertain to grab what he wanted. We can smile when we think of all the good times he had and that he himself was responsible for his happiness. In his words, "Live life like it's your last day; you never know when or where it is going to end." No selfish tears or self pity for me. Today I will only heed his advice. I will live life, smile and laugh beause this is the legacy he left for me, for his siblings and for all those he loved."